Hicotea: A Nightlights Story is an award-winning graphic novel written and illustrated by Colombian artist and illustrator Lorena Alvarez. It is the second book in the Nightlights series and was published by Nobrow Press on 12 March 2019. It is 64 pages long and is suitable for older children between 8 and 12 years of age. Hicotea is one of the most beautifully illustrated books I have ever read. Lorena Alvarez was born in Bogotá, Colombia. Her stunning illustrations were inspired by her experiences growing up in her home town and going to a Catholic school as a child.
Hicotea follows the adventures of Sandy, the young, adventurous heroine Alvarez first introduced in Nightlights, the first in the series. Sandy attends a Catholic school and has an interest in nature. When her class goes on a school trip to the river, Sandy wanders away and discovers what looks like an ordinary, empty turtle shell. When she peeks inside though, she discovers a magical new dimension. The inside of the shell is actually a giant, glittering museum, filled with paintings, sculptures and books.
Sandy climbs inside the shell and meets the occupant, a wise old turtle named Hicotea, who shows her around the museum. When Sandy finds a blank canvas on the wall, she asks Hicotea why it is blank. Hicotea tells her she needs her help to complete it and so begins an amazing adventure for young Sandy through a magical landscape.
Hicotea is a fantastic story set in a surreal, magical world. It was named Winner of the 2019 Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award from Comic-Con International and was a finalist for Pop Culture Classroom's 2020 EGL Award, Best in Middle-Grade Graphic Literature and the Mosaic Award and a finalist for Maryland's 2020 Black-Eyed Susan Book Award for Graphic Novels, Grades 4-6.
Hicotea really impressed me. The colourful atmosphere and the magical setting reminded me of Alice in Wonderland meets Hayao Miyazaki but with a Latin twist. This is not a book suitable for younger readers. It contains a few scary moments and graphic illustrations that might frighten them. If you have older children though who love fantasy, I would definitely recommend Hictotea: A Nightlights Story.